Clemson: The Tigers have an easy start to the 2001 schedule with the first four games at home (C Fla, Wofford, Duke, & VA). Two crucial games at Georgia Tech and NC State could eliminate the Tigers from the ACC chase if they don’t split. The Tigers have FSU at home as well. With QB Woodrow Dantzler and RB Travis Zachery returning, the Tigers should contend for the ACC. They will likely need to win the ‘01 Battle of the Bowdens to win the ACC in 2001, though.
Duke: The Blue Devils will struggle again in 2001, and it will start early. Duke opens the season with Florida State at home. Two road games and a visit from Northwestern after FSU could leave the Devils 0-4 before the season gets started good. If coach Carl Franks wants to keep his job, the Blue Devils need to greatly improve on last year’s 0-11 record. Duke’s best chances for a W come at home against Wake Forest, vs Vanderbilt, and a road trip to Rice. Duke realistically should not win more than 2 games, if that.
Florida State: With the recent loss of WR Robert Morgan and the injury to WR turned QB turned WR Anquan Boldin, the Seminoles are hurting. Chris Rix has moved to the starting QB spot. The first big game on the ‘Noles’ schedule appears to be a home matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Trips to Virginia, Clemson, and Florida could also trip up the ‘Noles in 2001. Home games with Miami and UAB (that’s Alabama-Birmingham, for those of you who don’t know; and if you play them, you better watch out...Hint: Pittsburgh) will be tough for FSU as well. The ‘Noles could fall as far as a 7-4 or 8-3 season, though I think a 9-2 is the best bet. This may finally be the year someone besides FSU wins the ACC.
Georgia Tech: George Godsey returns as QB to lead the Jackets in 2001. He and GT will be tested early with a preseason matchup at Syracuse. Games at FSU, vs Clemson, vs NC State, and @ VA are keys to GT’s success. If they can go 9-2 or 10-1, they will likely be the ACC champs. Thanks to the down year FSU is expected to have (at least by me), GT is a true, legitimate national title contender. If Godsey and All-American candidate WR Kelly Campbell can hook up for some big plays, the Jackets have a chance to have a top-5 season.
Maryland: The Terrapins have a chance to get off to a good start in 2001, with games at home against a likely beat up North Carolina, E. Michigan, and West Virginia to open the season. A game at WF is a likely must win if MD wants 6 wins. Home games with Duke and Troy State are also must-wins. Mix in an upset with the wins Maryland should have, and the Terrapins could wins 6-7 games. The key will be a good start after the loss of RB LaMont Jordan.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have a murderous first 1/2 of the schedule. They lead off with 3 road games (OK, MD, TX) followed by home games with SMU, FSU, and E. Carolina, with a road trip to NC State mixed in after FSU. If the Tar Heels can somehow come out of these 7 games with 3 wins, they’ll have a shot at a .500 season. I sure wouldn’t bet on it though. The schedule is not friendly at all. Ronald Curry will need to have a big year if the Tar Heels are to go bowling. And, by the way, DE Julius Peppers is the real deal.
NC State: NC State is my pick for the ACC’s surprise team of 2001. With three of the first four games at home (Ohio, Indiana, @ SMU, NC), the ‘Pack should get off to a good start. The toughest games for NC State will be at home vs Clemson, @ GA Tech, and @ FSU. If they can win one of these, the Wolfpack could be on their way to an 8 or 9 wins season and a good bowl. If Clemson and Georgia Tech or FSU turn out to be worse than predicted, NC State could be bowling on New Year’s Day. An ACC championship is probably too much to ask but a 3rd-place finish is very possible.
Virginia: New coach Al Groh will try to take the Cavaliers to a bowl in his first year. It will be a struggle, though, thanks to a not-so-friendly schedule. VA leads off the season on August 25 @ Wisconsin. Other tough games include Penn State at home, @ Clemson, vs FSU, @ NC State, vs GA Tech, and vs VA Tech. The Cavs should have easy W’s against Richmond, Duke, and Wake Forest, all home games. If they can pull out 2 road games, win the easy ones, and pull an upset, VA could finish at .500.
Wake Forest: Once again, Wake Forest and Duke will battle it out for last place in the ACC. The big game is scheduled for October 13 @ Duke. The Deacons should beat Appalachian State and N. Illinois and battle it out with Duke. More than 3 wins is probably too much to ask from this team. QB James McPherson, who threw for 1,324 yards last season, returns to lead Wake Forest.